My friend Scott Fleming -- one of the attorneys representing the Angola Three -- was one of dozens of peaceful protesters in Oakland, California who were shot with rubber and wooden bullets by Oakland police earlier this week. Talking to him made me realize that those brave souls who take to the streets, especially in America where there is almost no social reinforcement for dissent of any kind right now, are demonstrating an incredibly inspirational level of courage for which they should be celebrated again and again. I can only think of one other group whose resistance to a system they believe to be unjust is as risky and selfless: the refusniks of the Israeli Army.
Scott told me that he and several hundred other protestors were peacefully gathered in a street near the docks in Oakland to picket a local business which they said was profiting from the war. Suddenly, a phalanx of police officers dressed in riot gear and wearing gas masks arrived on the scene and told them to disperse. Although most of them did, a few stayed behind and shouted at the police. Instead of arresting those few protestors, the cops opened fire on the entire crowd with rifle-fired bean bags filled with metal shot, concussion grenades, rubber bullets, and wooden pellets. Scott and dozens of others were struck in the back as they tried to flee.
Scott picked up a shell casing from one of the wooden pellets that hit him and read the label, which clearly indicated that the pellets are designed to be shot at the ground and ricochet into their target to disperse a crowd, and that shooting them directly at people could be fatal. But still, the police shot them directly at the protestors' backs. How cowardly. Several longshoremen who were simply going to work got caught in the hail of "non-lethal" fire, and several of them -- along with dozens of protestors -- were hospitalized for their injuries.
Scott and several other protestors have demanded an independent investigation of the incident by the Oakland City Council, and many are planning legal action. Meanwhile, the Oakland police continue to accuse the protestors of aggression that no one else seems to have witnessed. And Mayor Jerry Brown -- a man who used to have a spine and a shred of integrity -- continues to demonize the protestors and defend the police ... before he's seen a shred of evidence.
All I can say is, good on those protestors for having been there in the first place, and for refusing to back down in the face of a barrage of bullets and official propaganda and dissemblance. I celebrate their courage.